Cycling in Amsterdam is the most authentic way for any visitor to see the city.
Amsterdam is perfectly set up for getting on your bike – there are around 515km (320 miles) of dedicated cycle lanes. Amsterdam is routinely rated as the world’s 2nd most bike-friendly city, just behind Copenhagen.
Cycling is deeply ingrained into the Dutch psyche at all levels of society – not surprising when you consider how flat most of the country is.
The Netherlands has a population of 17.2 million people and about a quarter of those (4.25 million) cycle every day. There are actually more bikes than people – 22.8 million bikes or about 1.33 bikes per person.
On any working day between 8am and 9am in the morning almost 2 million bikes will be on Dutch roads!
With so many bikes around it’s not surprising to note that bike theft in Amsterdam is rampant – over 200 bikes a day are stolen.
You may be approached by a ‘dodgy’ stranger on the street offering to sell you a bike for maybe €20 – don’t think about it as these are stolen and you risk a fine as well as perpetuating this criminal activity.
Due to risk of theft, many people ride battered old cycles for normal use around town. Most Dutch cyclists will also own a more expensive bike for touring – given that there are 100,000 km of well marked cycle routes around the country.
Many locals cycle in an assertive (if not ‘kamikaze’) manner and they travel at good speed very close to each other.
They will often ignore red lights, they will pull out from side streets without looking, they will shout “Ja, Hallo!” in annoyance if you inadvertently walk into the cycle lane and they will park their bike in the middle of the pavement on a busy shopping street!
If you want to ride a bike around the city it does take a bit of practice to get up to speed with the locals – so take some care initially. A lot of bad cycling seen in the centre of Amsterdam is actually done by inexperienced tourists who may not do much bike riding at home.
You should always follow the traffic rules (including obeying the special cycle traffic lights), be careful crossing tram tracks (do so at an angle) and watch out for trams, pedestrians and other cyclists.
Don’t put on headphones whilst cycling – you need to hear what’s around you. Stick to the designated cycle lanes – do not ride on pavements, squares or pedestrianised ways.
There are different types of designated cycle lanes (fietspad) – these can be marked on the road itself; or cycle lanes can be physically separated from both the road and pavement. Cycle lanes are usually one-way though a dashed line in the middle indicates travel allowed in both directions.
Use hand signals for turning left/right when there are other road users around you. Unless otherwise signed, priority is given to traffic coming from your right. And don’t forget you officially need a front and back light when it is dark or during poor visibility.
The Dutch are not particularly “health and safety” obsessed – unlike the UK, for example – and rarely use cycle helmets. Even many moped/scooter riders will not wear them. Most Dutch car drivers however, have a very good awareness of cyclists and will give way where necessary.
Note that the most basic Dutch bikes have a single gear and use back-pedal brakes which takes some getting used to if you are accustomed to hand brakes.
There are a number of secure bike parking facilities (fietsenstalling) run by the council – with the following locations in the centre of Amsterdam:
Beursplein, Rokin, Oosterdok, OBA (library), Reguliersdwarsstraat, Pathé De Munt, Leidseplein, Ferdinand Bolstraat, Ceintuurbaan, De Hallen
Amsterdam Central station has a number of bike parks including the new one at Stationsplein with capacity for 7,000 bikes. Bike parking facilities are also found at Stationsplein Oost, IJboulevard and IJzijde West.
If parking your bike on the street always lock the frame and front wheel against something fixed like a cycle rack, railing or post. Those who own a bike should invest in a decent set of locks.
New bikes are not cheap, with an average price of around €600. A good second-hand bike can easily cost €100 to €250 – for cheaper bikes try the market at Waterlooplein.
Strong locks can be bought at Waterlooplein or Albert Cuyp markets. Dutch department store HEMA also sells a range of basic cycling accessories. Other shops selling new bikes include Halfords, Mantel and Decathlon.
Electric bikes have become very popular and fashionable in The Netherlands – there are around 5 million e-bikes on the road. However, there are some downsides to e-bikes:
- they are very expensive to buy (ranging from €2,000 to €4,500)
- they are fast and the speed differential to standard bikes is causing an increased number of accidents, particularly during overtaking
- they cost money to charge and increase energy consumption
- in terms of lifecycle (no pun intended), they have a far greater environmental impact than a normal bike
Expats should consider joining the OV-Fiets national bike rental scheme run by NS Dutch railways.
There are many bike repair shops in the city so if you get a puncture you should not have far to walk to get it fixed.
For expats and residents the bicycle becomes a cheap and essential way of getting around town… and it will keep you fit (if you stick to standard bikes)!
Bike Rental in Amsterdam
Renting a bike (fiets verhuur) is straight forward and will set you back from around €10 for a day rental for a basic back-pedal single gear bike. Cheaper rates per day can be had if you rent for a longer period or rent in a group. Theft insurance is charged at around €3 supplement per day, worth taking for peace of mind. Bikes with hand brakes and gears are a little more expensive.
E-bikes will cost around €33 for a day.
You will generally need to leave a form of ID, a deposit (€50-€200) or a credit card authorisation. Some rental companies mark their bikes with logos whilst others have unmarked bikes.
There are a number of rental outfits around the city, prices are similar and delivery (to your accommodation) is sometimes possible.
A few companies also offer guided tours which can be a great way to discover the city/region with an experienced local guide.
Amsterdam Bike Rental Shops
MacBike – De Ruijterkade 34/Oosterdokskade 63A/Waterlooplein 289/Overtoom 45
Black Bikes (Het Zwarte Fietsenplan) – Lijnbaansgracht 283/Spaarndammerstraat 141 /Prins Hendrikkade 14 /Ferdinand Bolstraat 8/Beethovenstraat 86/Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 146/Koninginneweg 267-269/Land van Cocagneplein 1e/Maasstraat 106-108/Eerste Constantijn Huygensstraat 88/Wolvenstraat 18/Reguliersbreestraat 41/Oudekerksplein 62/Czaar Peterstraat 14/Gustav Mahlerplein 118/Falckstraat 47
Yellow Bike – Nieuwezijds Kolk 29
DamStraat Rent a Bike – Damstraat 20-22
Bike City – Bloemgracht 68-70
Mike’s Bike Tours – Kerkstraat 134/Prins Hendrikkade 176
Star Bikes Rental – De Ruyterkade 143
AmsterBike – Piet Heinkade 25
Frederic Rentabike – Binnen Wieringerstraat 23
King Bikes – Kerkstraat 143/Spuistraat 1C/Barndesteeg 9
Bike 4U – Kinkerstraat 1/Geldersekade 17HS
This article was originally published in 2010 and has been regularly updated. Last update 17 January 2023.